Autism and the New Brunswick Provincial Election
This is my first provincial election since MJ’s Asperger/Autism diagnosis. I generally always read every party’s platform, watch the debate and then make my decision based on whose platform I like best. This time round there’s been one thing on my mind, I want to know who has the best platform when it comes to Autism policies in this province.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the preschool services we received here in Fredericton were fantastic, but as we’ve noted in other posts related to the proposed changes (that are now on hold indefinitely), not all regions receive the same equal level of service with government funded tax dollars. While my daughter is high functioning, and would not need a care facility when she is an adult, there are no such services here for families of children with severe autism and that’s a massive gap that needs to be closed.
Two parties note this in their platform and commit to building a facility for adults with severe autism, but do not have any other reference to autism in their plans. The other three parties make no mention of autism what so ever in their platforms. With this in mind, I posed a series of questions to all parties, yet at the time of writing this blog post (5 days later), only heard back from two. The two who made commitments to begin with. I will update the post if I get any other responses, but as of now, it’s clear that if autism is as important to you as it is to me, your vote should be with either The New NDP or the Green Party.
While we as a blog are not endorsing any particular candidates, I can tell you that I’ve had numerous conversations with NDP Candidates, some of whom are raising children on the spectrum – that’s right, at least three – if not four, of the candidates with the NDP are personally affected by autism. In fact, one candidate advised me that Dominic Cardy has even personally attended medical appointments with his family so he can understand the challenges they face. That speaks volumes in my books. I also applaud the Green Party’s commitment to creating an Autism Working Group comprised of various stakeholders from the community, including parents.
Below are the questions and answers from each of the two parties. The first question was only asked of the Green and NDP, the next seven were asked of all parties.
1. What is your commitment level to the current 20 hours of ABA therapy children received, funded by the government? Would this continue and what changes would you suggest?
2. There are currently 6 centres in the province delivering these pre-school services, but they all have different operating models and offer different levels of service. There is no consistency amongst what is provided/offered to families. How would your government change this?
3. Some children require occupational therapy in conjunction with ABA, but the wait times are long and parents are now forced to pay out of pocket in order to get vital services at a young age. What would your government do to change this?
We have no specific plans to change the current ABA model for preschool children, however what has worked in many cases in New Brunswick and other jurisdictions, is to have more occupational therapy including in a child’s ABA intervention. This is something a parent can talk about with their clinical supervisor.
4. There is a shortage of EAs in the classroom for kids entering the school system, how would you address this?
5. Once kids age out of the pre-school therapy, there is little support in the school system to continue with ABA therapy, and waits for services like occupational or speech therapy are often very long forcing parents to pay out of pocket. How would you address this?
Again, the Creative Schools Act will give all children the support they need to succeed; this would include the provision of therapy for children that require it.
6. The supports (EAs and services) in the school system appear to be almost non existent for the students with high functioning autism, parents – ourselves included – find that we are at the bottom of wait lists or have to fight to receive any support (including EA). How would your government address this?
No parent should have to “fight” for services their children require. Any child, who requires extra support to be successful, should receive it. This will be covered under the Creative Schools Act
7. Very few actual parents are consulted or brought in to help advise on autism services. Would you support and commit to establishing a stakeholder committee made of up parents representing all levels and ages of children in our community with autism?
Spectrum Warriors would like to thank the parties who responded, and remind all our New Brunswick readers to vote on Monday, September 22